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Encyclopaedia Judaica

Jews in England 04: 1881-1914

Jewish mass immigration from anti-Semitic Russia - new small synagogues - Anglicization - resistance against too much immigration and investigations - Jews in high positions

from: England; In: Encyclopaedia Judaica, vol. 6

presented by Michael Palomino (2008)

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<Modern Period.


[since 1881: Jewish immigration of Russian Jews - 1905: Aliens Immigration Act with restriction measures of immigration]

<With the recrudescence of persecution in Russia in 1881 [[by anti-Semitism lead by the anti-Semitic Russian czar]], immigration increased immensely [[from the Pale of Settlement]]. A majority of the refugees settled in London; the communities of Manchester, Birmingham, and other places were similarly reinforced while that of *Leeds, wholly based on the tailoring industry, proportionately attracted the greatest number of all. The congregations in all the more important industrial towns and seaports throughout the country - including *Scotland, *Wales, and *Ireland - now grew to important dimensions.

However, at the same time, some of the older country centers, such as Canterbury or Penzance, were decaying. The newcomers largely settled in urban districts and entered one or two specific trades; the ready-made clothing industry was virtually created as a result of their efforts. The characteristically English Trade Union and Friendly Society movements rapidly acquired a stronghold. The tide of immigration was, however, checked by the Aliens Immigration Act of 1905, passed after a long agitation which at one time assumed something of an anti-Semitic complexion.> (col. 757)

Even in [[racist Empire]] England, the country which had been freest of all forms of anti-Semitism in the middle third of the 19th century, it reappeared after 1881, as relatively large numbers of Yiddish-speaking new immigrants continued to arrive. The moral qualities and working habits of these Jews were debated and investigated by parliamentary commissions and, after years of tension, an Aliens Act putting restrictions on further immigration became law in 1906.
(from: Encyclopaedia Judaica (1971): Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 125)

[1880: 65,000 Jews - 1914: 300,000 Jews - migration movements within England - integration of the Russian Jews - new small synagogues - Anglicization]

<The mass immigration from Eastern Europe that began in 1881 opened a new epoch in Anglo-Jewish history. The Anglo-Jewish community was affected not only by the sheer size of the migration, which increased the population of the community from 65,000 in 1880 to 300,000 in 1914, but also by the differences it imposed on the character of the community. The immigration injected into what was by then an increasingly middle-class, anglicized, mainly latitudinarian body, a mass of proletarian, Yiddish-speaking, predominantly Orthodox immigrants. Whereas the existing community had begun to disperse from the old Jewish quarters (col. 758)

into the suburbs, the immigrants formed compact, overcrowded ghettos in East London, Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool, and Glasgow. Furthermore, while the earlier English Jews had tended to seek an increasing diversity of occupations in the 19th century, the immigrants were concentrated in a limited number of trades: in 1901, about 40% of the gainfully employed Russo-Polish immigrant males were tailors, about 12-13% were in the boot and shoe trade, and about 10% were in the furniture trade, mainly as cabinetmakers.

The immigrants created a network of institutions such as Yiddish and a few Hebrew newspapers and fraternal societies and trade unions, although the Jewish trade-union movement had no lasting history in Britain. They also created many small synagogues (hevrot) and joined in the London Federation of Synagogues - albeit under the leadership of English Jews - headed by Sir Samuel Montagu, later Lord Swaythling.

The communal leadership sought to "anglicize" the immigrants by encouraging their participation in classes in English, the state-aided Jewish schools, such as the Jews' Free School, and clubs and youth movements, like the *Jewish Lads Brigade. The London *United Synagogue tried to found a large synagogue in the Jewish quarter with associated community services (the "East End Scheme"), but this plan was frustrated largely by opposition from the hevrot it was intended to replace.

The immigrants themselves generally sought Anglicization, as British prestige was high in the world and the British libertarian tradition was appreciated among Jews. While some stalwarts, such as the Machzike Hadath community, remained aloof, many immigrants joined the United Synagogue, since its rite was broadly traditional. The instance of social mobility was high among the immigrants: they sought economic independence, moved to the suburbs, and joined the Anglo-Jewish middle class. Leaving aside minorities of Orthodox, secularists, Yiddishists, socialists and anarchists, the Anglo-Jewish community that evolved was probably more integrated than any other in the western lands of immigration.

[Resistance against too much immigration - British Brothers' League - economic depression - overcrowded houses - 1905: Aliens Act to restrict immigration - exceptions and disputes about public support]

The influx of so many aliens, at a time when there was no effective control over immigration, produced considerable reaction among the native population. Charges were made that aliens working for low wages on piecework in small workshops would depress wages generally and cause unemployment; pressure on housing accommodation would cause overcrowding, raise rents, and introduce "key money" (premiums for grant of tenancies); the English or "Christian" character of whole neighborhoods would be altered, and immigrants would bring disease and crime. Strong sections of the trade unions were hostile to immigration. Organizations such as the British Brothers' League were formed to combat it, and, unfortunately, the peak years of immigration occurred during a period of economic depression.

The charges against the aliens were investigated by several official inquiries, culminating in the Royal Commission on Aliens in 1903, which declared all the charges unfounded, except, in part, that relating to overcrowded housing conditions. A majority of the commission recommended measures to prevent the concentration of immigrants in particular areas. This move proved impracticable, but the government reacted by introducing the 1905 Aliens Act to restrict immigration.

The act had some effect at first, but, since it contained appeal provisions for genuine refugees from racial or religious persecution, the number of immigrants increased again to the former annual average. Many opponents of immigration sought to distinguish between the immigrant population and the established Jewish community. The latter had at first displayed an ambivalent attitude toward the immigrants, Although they recognized (col. 759)

the humanitarian problem, some leaders feared that the communal institutions would be swamped by the helpless, and at first it was not generally appreciated that Russian persecution was more than a temporary check on the progress of liberalization. IN the earlier years, therefore, attempts were made to dissuade immigrants from coming to England and even to "repatriate" them to Eastern Europe. After the 1903-04 pogroms, however, there was no longer any doubt about the nature of the situation in Eastern Europe and the support of the Jewish communal leadership for immigration was unquestioned.


[English Jews in high political positions]

Meanwhile, political emancipation for British Jews reached its climax when the first peerage was conferred upon a Jew, Lord *Rothschild (1885). The attainment of social acceptance was expressed by the presence of a number of Jews in the "Marlborough House set" centered around the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII); Lord Rothschild and his brothers, Alfred and Leopold, the Reuben brothers, Arthur and Albert *Sassoon, Sir Ernest *Cassel, Baron de *Hirsch, and others, were members of this group.

Jews had also become prominent in politics as Conservative members of Parliament (such as the communal leaders Lionel Louis and Benjamin *Cohen), although as a group they still belonged primarily to the Liberal Party which had fostered Jewish emancipation. Notable in the Asquith administration, which began in 1906, were Sir Rufus Isaacs (who became lord chief justice as Lord *Reading in 1913) and the young Herbert Samuel. The prominence of Jews in Liberal politics, the Marconi case (in which both Isaacs and Samuel were, however unfairly, involved), the wealth of Jewish financiers, and even the friendship of Jews with royalty were all ingredients in the literary anti-Semitism of the Edwardian period, in which Hilaire Belloc, G.K. Chesterton, and Rudyard Kipling all attacked the allegedly alien influences in high places.> (col. 760)

[New synagogues since 1881]

<The Federation of Synagogues was established in London by the first Lord *Swaythling in 1887 to coordinate the many small congregations set up by the Russian-Polish immigrant elements - partly in rivalry with the "aristocratic" United Synagogue. The Reform movement had been introduced into England, in spite of strenuous opposition, in 1840, when the West London Synagogue of British Jews was founded. It was long confined almost entirely to the capital. Branch congregations were set up before the end of the 19th century only in Manchester and in Bradford. A more radical movement was begun by the foundation at the beginning of the 20th century, under the auspices of C.G. *Montefiore, of the Jewish Religious Union, which in 1910 established the Liberal Jewish Synagogue. This also showed in the mid-century a considerable measure of expansion. The vast mass of English Jewry, however, remained attached to the compromising Orthodoxy represented by the United Synagogue.> (col. 758)


[Jewish Russian and Jewish British scholars and writers - foundations - newspapers]

Although Russo-Jewish immigrants had exercised a decisive influence in the religious and intellectual spheres, they were not alone. A group of British - or Empire-born - scholars and writers grew up in the 1880s with the Rumanian-born Solomon *Schechter as their mentor. The Anglo-Jewish Historical Exhibition of 1887 (with whose organization the art connoisseur Sir Isidore Spielmann was associated) was visited by (col. 761)

Heinrich *Graetz, who urged the formation of a body to study Anglo-Jewish history. This suggestion was implemented in 1893 by the foundation of the *Jewish Historical Society of England, with whose work Lucien *Wolf, equally celebrated as an expert on international affairs, was associated for over 35 years. Apart from the continuation of historical studies, the specifically Anglo-Jewish renaissance was short; Schechter and Jacobs moved to America, as did the *Jewish Quarterly Review (begun by Claude Montefiore and Israel Abrahams in 1888).

[Synagogues and rabbis]

The main body of religious Anglo-Jewry continued its laitudinarian way. While small congregations of German or East European origin maintained a separate existence on the extreme right of the religious spectrum, the immigrants increasingly joined the United Synagogue in London and its provincial counterparts. Some changes in liturgical usage had been sanctioned by the aged chief rabbi, Nathan Marcus Adler, in 1880 and may have led to his retirement from active  office. His son, Hermann, who succeeded him sanctioned further changes in 1892. But these changes were in detail rather than substance and followed what the United Synagogue then described as its principle of progressive Conservatism, an attitude confirmed by the next chief rabbi, Hertz.

In contrast to this trend was a movement in the 1890s for more radical change that soon broke from the Orthodox ranks, although several of those originally concerned, such as Simeon *Singer, the translator of the prayer book, remained in the Orthodox community. As a result, in 1902, Claude Montefiore formed the Jewish Religious Union, which soon developed into the Liberal Jewish Synagogue.> (col. 762)

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Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col. 757-758
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 757-758
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col. 759-760
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 759-760
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England,
                          vol.6, col. 761-762
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Jews in England, vol.6, col. 761-762
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Anti-Semitism,
                          vol. 3, col. 125
Encyclopaedia Judaica: Anti-Semitism, vol. 3, col. 125